MIDLOTHIAN — Hidden in the backyards of Midlothian resides a natural gem tucked away at Mockingbird Nature Park.
Stopping to not only smell the flowers but also to identify the plethora of native shrubbery, the Indian Trail Master Naturalists hosted their monthly "Wild Flower Walk" for Midlothian residents, Saturday, March 18.
“This is an opportunity for us to introduce the residents to the treasure that they have here in Midlothian. One couple said, ‘We had never been here,’ and they lived here in Midlothian for a long time and they’ve never been here, so it’s a showcase,” expressed Anne Gross of the Indian Trail Master Naturalists.
From discovering planted gardens to authentic grasslands, the walk educated the public about the importance of organic territories on the 70-acre landscape.
“We want to give people an insight of what the prairies looked like a long time ago. Now, not all of this is native prairie grasses, and what it exactly looked like, but we’ve been working on restoring it. Little by little we’ve been seeding it with some wildflower seeds and things that would represent things that were growing here 100 years ago,” Gross explained the process of the park’s preservation.
As all wildlife and insects depend on the indigenous flora, Gross stresses the importance of the park’s preservation for her community’s ecosystem.
“It’s extremely important to protect all of this, because everything is built on the plant species, from the air we breathe to the bees that provide honey, and the grains that provide us with food - everything comes down to preserving plants,” Gross affirmed. “So for these natural areas, if you start narrowing your range of plants to just cultivated varieties, you’re going to lose not just the plants but the many insects and the cycle that depends on that. Some birds will only eat certain insects, and some insects will only feed on certain plants at certain times of the day. So without that continuity and that flow, then you’re missing a lot."
Gross goes on to say that from Monarch butterflies living off of milkweed plants to wildflowers growing next to the highway, weaning out one plant could destroy a whole ecosystem. However, she also explained that encouraging vegetation diversity with community education would help bring about the growth of a healthy ecosystem.
“The earliest spring blooming flowers that we have, they have an important role in planting, and they have different uses. Until you have someone point out to you and get down and look at what’s there, then you don’t know what you’re losing," she insisted.
Leading the family-friendly trail, Gross pointed out unique finds throughout the walk, such as corn gromwell, Indian paintbrushes, and even poison ivy. With full participation from the crowd in the live demonstrations and informational booths, the event was a total success.
As seasons change, Gross is confident that the wildflower walk will bring more awareness to her community and she invites the public to the next walk, scheduled for Saturday, April 15.
“Hopefully it’ll encourage people to come back out every month, and as the season and months develops and changes, we’re going to see an explosion of color as we head into June. It’s going to be just gorgeous, and it changes every month, and there’s always something to see,” Gross added.
To connect with the Indian Trail Master Naturalists, visit txmn.org/indiantrail. To visit Mockingbird Nature Park, go to 1361 Onward Road in Midlothian.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer